Horwill, Deans relieved after captain cleared

Last updated 05:00 03/07/2013
James Horwill
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CHUFFED: James Horwill fronts the media after being cleared to play in the third test.

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It was a sleepless night Robbie Deans was happy to be done with - his captain tossed and turned but James Horwill was finally cleared of a stamping charge and is ready to make his mark in the deciding test against the British and Irish Lions.

Horwill had a fitful rest once he and Deans disconnected from a conference call with IRB judicial officer Graham Mews in Toronto after midnight Monday (NZT), so the Canadian could begin his lengthy deliberations.

Unlike Kurtley Beale and James O'Connor, the flighty playmakers who were out in a fast food joint until 4am in the days leading up to last Saturday's Melbourne test, the inspirational lock spent the dark times watching the third stage of the Tour de France between Agaccio and Calvi.

Australia GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans won in a photo-finish to Horwill's delight - the 37-cap leader then finally got across the line for Saturday's clash in Sydney about midday yesterday (NZT).

Team manager Bob Egerton told Horwill the IRB's decision to appeal New Zealander Nigel Hampton QC's finding last week was unsuccessful, ending official debate over whether Alun Wyn Jones received a deliberate facial injury via Horwill's boot three minutes into the series opener in Brisbane on June 22.

Horwill was initially cleared but in an unprecedented move the IRB appealed the not guilty verdict.

The second hearing spanned two and a half hours and then English-born Mew spent more than 12 hours deliberating until endorsing Hampton's view that the contact was non-intentional.

Horwill's exoneration gives the Wallabies a massive boost in their quest to retain the Tom Richards Cup after they avenged the 23-21 loss in Brisbane with a nerve-jangling 16-15 victory at Etihad Stadium.

"They'll be stoked to have James back," said Deans said of Horwill's teammates.

"He's right at the heart of what we do, you've seen what it means to him and that flows on to the group."

A tearful Horwill bent at the knee after striking a gladiatorial pose when Leigh Halfpenny couldn't seal the Lions first series victory since 1997 - but yesterday denied the prospect of suspension was the catalyst for his emotional response.

"I didn't actually think I would (miss the test). I think it was me releasing the pent up emotion inside me," he said.

"It had been a roller coaster of a week. The disappointment of Saturday night (in Brisbane), hearing about the citing, being cleared and then hearing about the appeal...the game was up and down, up and down as well."

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There had been major criticism of the IRB's move to launch an appeal last Thursday, but Horwill never felt the sport's governing body was against him.

"I don't think I really thought about it like that. The IRB were entitled to take the process they did. It was a very fair and thorough process and I believe the right decision was made at the end."

Horwill thanked Mew, Hampton and former General Counsel for the NZRU Steve Cottrell, who joined the defence team when the IRB rejected Hampton's finding.

Although he only managed "one or two" hours sleep Horwill was always confident he would be cleared and free to play the biggest test in Australia since the 2003 World Cup final.

"I know what happened and that it was completely accidental. There was never any intent of malice or knowledge of anything happening.

"You're always hopeful the truth comes out."

In his judgment Mew said he would have had to establish there was a misapprehension of law by (Hampton) or manifestly unreasonable decision for the appeal to succeed.

"There was sufficient evidence upon which a reasonable judicial officer could have reached the decision that was made," Mew said.

"Accordingly, it could not be said that (he) was manifestly wrong or that the interests of justice otherwise required his decision be overturned."

- Stuff

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